Engineering industry chief on boosting European research and innovation

October 2, 2006

Brussels, 29 Sep 2006

Last year, Orgalime, the European Engineering Industries Association, elected Edward Krubasik as its President. Professor Krubasik has a strong background in research (he has a doctorate in nuclear physics) and innovation (he was in charge of McKinsey's global innovation and technology management practice). Since 1997 he has been a member of Siemens' Corporate Executive Committee, where he is currently responsible for Siemens' relations with the EU. He is also a member of the European Commission's High Level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment. On a recent trip to Brussels, Mr Krubasik spoke enthusiastically to CORDIS News about his hopes and ideas for the future of research and innovation in Europe.

In its latest communication on boosting innovation in the EU, the European Commission highlighted the importance of creating lead markets by stimulating demand for new products, a priority with which Professor Krubasik strongly agrees.

'Now the first important thing to know is that research and development has to be in the places where the lead customers for the new technologies are, because it's those customers and it is their drive to get the new things which influence the research specifications for products in the development phase,' he explains.

Furthermore, he notes that investors are also interested in the future growth in demand for a product. 'We have to create an environment here in Europe where everybody knows the growth in demand will be here,' he says emphatically. 'If we are all seeing China or Asia as the only alternative because all the demand and all the growth and all the investments are there on the customer side, then people will move and will also put their laboratories close to the customer.'

One area where Professor Krubasik believes Europe has good potential to develop lead markets is infrastructure. As he points out, many of our infrastructures were originally built decades ago, and are now in need of modernisation. It is this modernisation, if we drive it fast enough, which will lead to the commercialisation of new technologies, and create lead markets for new technologies, he says.

This leads Professor Krubasik on to his next point: the importance of competition in fostering innovation. 'We have to make sure there is competition,' he says. 'Innovation and investment flourishes only when there is competition. When there is no competitor driving, I just take the profits; I don't have to do anything new. If there is competition driving me, I will invent new things in order to be better.'

To achieve this, Professor Krubasik believes that the EU needs to introduce 'creative regulation', which will focus competition on innovation and investment and also allow private money to earn a good return with infrastructure tasks.

Returning to the theme of lead markets, Professor Krubasik states his conviction that jobs in Europe depend on having lead markets in Europe. However, production of 'old' products will move to lower cost countries. 'The consumer generally is in no way patriotic,' he commented wryly. 'The consumer wants high quality and low cost and if this is easily coming from China, he will get it from there.'

The solution, according to Professor Krubasik, is that 'we have to invent a future'. This means thinking ahead. 'Yes there will be low cost cars coming from China,' he says by way of an example. 'But car-to-car communication and floating car data and higher security and halving of the mortality rate in traffic will come with technologies that we'll apply first here,' he says. 'We should already see the next thing we want to do.'

Orgalime is particularly concerned about the ongoing flouting of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) rules, particularly in countries like China. Here Krubasik says better enforcement of WTO rules is vital, and guilty companies should face sanctions and quick law suits. Looking to the future, he is more hopeful, commenting, 'I think we will get more and more agreement also with the industry there because more and more we'll find situations where companies there are interested in protecting the knowledge they have developed.'

Another point in the Commission's innovation strategy is the fostering of 'entrepreneurial spirit'. 'We should make it very easy for everybody to found a new business,' Professor Krubasik says. 'Second, we have to make it easer with tax schemes for entrepreneurs so that the early losses that they make will be quickly recovered by tax advantages that they'll have from this early investment into losses. Next, we definitely need regulations that are lighter for small companies.'

Education is also important. 'There should not be an engineering school where there are not also 20 to 30 courses on entrepreneurship,' he says forcefully. 'We do need this combined education.

Many people are gloomy about the future of research and innovation in Europe. With people like Professor Krubasik in charge, there is certainly room for a great deal of hope.

For more information on Orgalime, please visit:
http://www.orgalime.org/

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